Bloody Roar 3 Hands-On

The import of version of Bloody Roar 3 has arrived in our offices, and we delve right in. Does the game better the formula established by its predecessors?

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Bloody Roar 3 is out in Japan, but it's yet to acquire US publisher. It's really a shame--this installment in the series is definitely the best, as it expands upon the cast of playable characters and collects the best gameplay elements from both previous installments. The result is an altogether solid fighter, with very strong visuals and clean, accessible play mechanics.

Those familiar with the previous installments in the series know just what to expect from Bloody Roar 3: fighting lycanthropes, flashy specials, and watered-down combos. As far as depth goes, the Bloody Roar games are a unique case--while by no means shallow, the series does seem to focus on giving its games a sort of illusory depth. In effect, its combos look complex, but their executions are in fact relatively simple. When considering their multitude of Street Fighter-like special attacks, though, it's hard to classify the Bloody Roar titles as combo-based games. Suffice it to say that they sit somewhere between special-move driven fighters, à la non-Vs. Capcom fighters, and chain/counter-focused games like Tekken. It's sort of a happy medium, and playing Bloody Roar 3 can be quite refreshing, especially after prolonged exposure to fighters on the more technical end of the spectrum.

Bloody Roar 3 features 14 playable characters, 12 of which are available from the outset. These include Busuzima the chameleon, Jenny the bat, Yugo the wolf, and Bakuryu the mole, among others. Logically, each has both a pre- and post-morph model, and they all look fantastic. The animations are superbly directed--they're convincingly realistic, and they grant many of the characters a definite comic feel. The actual character designs are among the most interesting seen in a 3D fighter to date, seemingly less reliant on fighting-game clichés than many recent games in the genre. The textures on the characters are for the most part impressive--of particular note are Busuzima's chameleon form, which looks suitably scaly and rough, and Shenlong the tiger man's rich fur.

Each character has a decent repertoire of moves at his or her disposal, and the straightforward combos keep the battles fresh. When in beast form, each character gets significantly stronger and faster and gains access to a handful of new moves. Regulating the metamorphoses is your standard supermeter, which gradually fills as you distribute and receive blows. It'll indicate your morph-ready status after you've been in the fray long enough, and you change by hitting the circle button. In beast form, as mentioned before, you're stronger, faster, able to access new moves, and endowed with a gradually regenerating life bar. When in beast mode, also, each character has access to a duo of supers--which, arguably, are the "cheapest" aspect of Bloody Roar 3. Executed by performing the double quarter-circle motions conventionalized by 2D fighters, these supermoves, if they connect, have a sort of raging-demon effect that's both insanely damaging and graphically spectacular. Alice, the bunny nurse, pounds you with a vicious flurry of attacks, amidst polygonal hearts, while Busuzima wraps his tongue around you and slams you all around the arena. Kohryu the robot mole, it bears mentioning, kicks you around for a bit and then pelts you with a flurry of missiles housed in a module within his chest. The effects, at any rate, are truly impressive, and it's easy to see that this is where Eighting focused most of its visual resources.

The game has your standard selection of modes. The arcade, versus, practice, and survival modes are available from the outset. There are a host of hidden modes buried within the game, but they're all just variations on the basic set--some alter beast parameters, others mess with game speed, and such. The import version of the game has a secret debug mode which, among other things, allows you manipulate the in-game models, posing them any which way you want. While it's not the most intuitive interface around, all the options are in English, though it takes you plenty of time to figure out exactly what options you'll want to tweak. Numerous message boards across the net, furthermore, provide support for would-be digital sculptors. It's been rumored that Hudson will remove the debug mode from future versions of the game, as some racy screenshots have turned up around the net. So if this is the game's main draw for you, you're urged to act fast and scoop the game via import channels--needless to say, we would all be very surprised if the mode remains in the game, if and when it is released stateside.

We sincerely hope that some lucrative publisher decides to release this game stateside--a solid fighter is always a welcome addition to a system's catalogue, and Bloody Roar 3, despite it's "cheaper" elements, is as solid as they come. Look to GameSpot for the latest.

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